25 Years Ago Today: Lollapalooza at Lake Fairfax Park

Here’s a sure sign we’re all getting old: Rock festival Lollapalooza played Reston for the second and final time 25 years ago today.

Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Lush, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Ice-T, Porno for Pyros, Luscious Jackson, and Stone Temple Pilots were among the bands who rocked Lake Fairfax Park that day. Tickets for the all-day show were $32.50, and an estimated 25,000 fans showed up.

The performance of Pearl Jam, who was early on a path toward becoming the arena- and stadium-filling Hall of Fame act it is today, was particularly memorable for fans. But lead singer Eddie Vedder almost missed it as he was stuck in traffic jams that plagued the area on the day. According to a fan account:

I headed to the show with several friends and we sat in the congested traffic for about an hour. Once we parked and made our way in Pearl Jam took the stage. Chris Cornell had come out to fill in for Eddie as he was en route and most likely did not have a cell phone! Cornell was just about to fill in when Eddie was spotted making his way towards the stage. The crowd parted and let him through as he got up on stage and told everyone, “thanks for waiting!”

Full video of the band’s 45-minute main-stage set, which included another appearance by Soundgarden frontman Cornell for a rare performance of their supergroup Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” is available here.

A Washington Post account of the festival compared the muddy, rowdy event — in a way familiar to all of us who just lived through 2016 — to the 1992 Presidential campaign.

By night’s end, there was only muddy ground and aftereffects of the most fervent mudslinging we’ll be seeing until the election campaigns get into full gear. Lollapalooza is the Ross Perot of rock tours, in some ways: cluttered with alternative bands who have nonetheless managed to get deals from major labels (four of seven are in the Time-Warner family) and several of which have managed lengthy stints in the platinum reaches of the pop charts. Still, with a midway mixing freak show with political and social-consciousness raising, this convention of the unconventional gathered a third party unto itself at Lake Fairfax Park, at least for one day.

The Lollapalooza festival, founded in 1991, played Lake Fairfax Park its first two years. But in 1993, it did not return. Complaints about noise and traffic on surrounding roads — not to mention accounts of alcohol and drug use — were too much, former county Park Authority board member Hal Strickland told Reston Now in 2014.

“We used some poor judgment,” he said. “We did not do our due diligence. The park authority is always looking for new revenue, but we have pretty much steered clear of this kind of thing ever since.”

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